The Euro-Gulf Monitor

13 - 19 May 2022

by

Arnold Koka & Veronica Stigliani

5 Top Points

  1. The UAE’s President and Abu Dhabi’s Ruler, Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, passed away and was succeeded by Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

  2. Bahrain hosted the 29th Middle East Petroleum and Gas Conference.

  3. Oman and Iran enhance cooperation, discuss bilateral ties and regional issues ahead of the upcoming visit of Iran’s President to Muscat.

  4. The UK Minister for Asia and the Middle East, Amanda Milling, travelled to Kuwait.

  5. The EU presented a strategy to enhance relations with the GCC countries titled ‘Strategic Partnership with the Gulf.’

‘Round and About the Gulf

Kingdom of Bahrain

Tuesday, 17 May–Bahrain hosted the 29th Middle East Petroleum and Gas Conference (MPGC) between 16 and 17 May. The event focused on international and public-private cooperation in joint global environmental projects as well as energy resilience amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The conference was chaired by Bahrain’s Minister of Oil, Mohammed bin Khalifa Al-Khalifa, and guest speakers included Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister, Abdulaziz bin Salman Al-Saud, and Iraq’s Minister of Oil, Ihsan Abdul Jabbar Ismaeel.

State of Kuwait

Tuesday, 10 May-Kuwait hosted the 108th meeting of the Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC). The session reviewed developments in the global oil, natural gas and hydrogen sectors, circular economy, sustainability and preparations for 12th Arab Energy Conference to be held in 2023 in Qatar.

Sultanate of Oman

Tuesday, 17 May–Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tarik Al-Said ratified a maritime transport cooperation deal with Iran. The agreement aims to boost regional and inter-regional transit as well as Omani-Iranian trade relations. The measure was taken during a visit by an Iranian business delegation to Muscat, headed by Deputy Industry Minister, Alireza Peyman-Pak. The two countries also agreed to establish a joint working group on maritime transportation.

Thursday, 19 May–Salalah Free Zone (SFZ) announced it will invest €84 million (EUR) to develop a petrochemical production plant and a training project regarding the maintenance and repair of containers.

State of Qatar

Monday, 16 May–Spain’s energy multinational, Iberdrola, the largest electricity company in Europe, and the Qatar Investment Promotion Agency (IPA) signed a deal to enhance their strategic partnership in innovation. The cooperation will focus on boosting the digitalisation of Qatar’s electricity sector, through activities that include joint projects on energy integration and energy efficiency, as well as technology and skill transfers through joint research, development and training activities.

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Wednesday, 18 May–Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) announced the launch of the ‘Saudi Coffee Company’, along with a 10-year investment plan in the coffee sector worth over €300 million (EUR). The firm will seek to increase coffee production from 300 to 2,500 tonnes per year. The move is part of the Fund’s strategy to enhance economic diversification through investments in non-oil sectors, including food and agriculture.

United Arab Emirates

Friday, 13 May–The UAE’s President, Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, passed away after a prolonged illness. The next day, the Supreme Federal Council elected Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, as President. A number of national leaders travelled to the UAE to offer condolences, including Israel’s President, Isaac Herzog, Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, UK’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and US Vice-President, Kamala Harris. Gulf leaders also travelled to Abu Dhabi, namely Bahrain’s King, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Kuwait’s Prime Minister, Sabah Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tarik Al Said, Qatar’s Emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman Al-Saud.

The EU Corner

 

Friday, 13 May‒The Head of the EU Delegation to Saudi Arabia, Patrick Simonnet, and the Saudi Vice Minister for Education, Saad Al-Fuhaid, discussed ways to promote students’ international mobility between Europe and the Gulf country.

 

Monday, 16 May‒The Saudi Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Waleed Al-Khereiji, welcomed Ilkka Salmi, the Counter-Terrorism Coordinator of the Council of the European Union (EU), in Riyadh. The Saudi representatives and the EU delegation discussed ways to boost cooperation in security and counter-terrorism.

 

Tuesday, 17 May‒Oman’s Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Diplomatic Affairs, Sheikh Khalifa Al-Harthy, received the European Commission’s Head of Visa Policy at the General Authority for Migration and Home Affairs, Dimitri Giotax. They discussed the issue of Shengen visa waiver for Omani citizens to facilitate travel between Oman and the EU.

 

Tuesday, 17 May‒The European Union (EU) Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process, Sven Koopmans, visited Qatar and Kuwait to discuss ways to enhance coordination on the Israeli–Palestinian Peace Process. In Qatar, Special Representative Koopmans met with the Assistant Foreign Minister for Regional Affairs, Mohammed bin Abdulaziz bin Saleh Al-Khulaifi. In Kuwait, he met with the Speaker of the National Assembly, Marzouq Al-Ghanim, and the Assistant Foreign Minister for Arab World and European Affairs Ambassadors, Nasser Al-Qahtan.

 

Wednesday, 18 May‒The European Union released the 'Strategic Partnership with the Gulf', a roadmap for deepening EU-Gulf cooperation, namely in: trade, economic diversification, health security, digitalisation, space, education, research and innovation, green transition, sustainability, and environmental protection, regional stability and conflicts’ resolution, counter-terrorism, international mobility, maritime safety, food security, development, and human rights.

 

Monday, 16 May‒The Speaker of Bahrain’s Council of Representatives, Fawzia Abdulla Yusuf Zainal, paid an official visit to Brussels, where she addressed the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs, praising the successful development of EU-Bahrain relations. She discussed human rights’ protection with the European Parliament Human Rights Subcommittee Chairperson, Marie Arena, and regional and international challenges with the Vice-Chair Delegation for Relations with the Arabian Peninsula (DARP), Marc Tarabella. During the visit, Speaker Zainal also met with the Speaker of the Belgian Parliament, Eliane Tello, and with the President of the Belgian Senate, Stephanie D'Hose, to discuss a further deepening of cooperation in education and health.

Key Official Visits

Monday, 16 May–Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani embarked on a tour to Slovenia, Spain, Germany, United Kingdom and Switzerland to discuss the expansion of gas supplies to the EU amid the bloc’s efforts to reduce its energy dependence on Russia. The Emir was accompanied by the Foreign Affairs and Energy Ministers, and met hitherto with Slovenia’s President, Borut Pahor, Spanish King Felipe VI and Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez. Qatar also pledged to invest €4.7 billion (EUR) in Spanish projects funded by the EU COVID recovery funds.

 

Sunday, 15 May–Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa travelled to the United Kingdom, where he met with Queen Elizabeth II.

 

Monday, 16 May–Thailand’s Foreign Minister, Don Pramudwinai, was received by his Saudi counterpart, Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, during his official trip to Riyadh. The two ministers agreed to expand ties in economy, investment, agriculture and labor. The commitment follows the two countries’ rapprochement after a 32 year-long diplomatic rift, which was also marked by the visit to Riyadh of the first Thai business delegation since 1989.

 

Tuesday, 17 May–Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Defence Minister, Khalid bin Salman Al-Saud, travelled to Washington, where he met with US Secretary of Defence, Lloyd Austin, and US National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan. The US officials reaffirmed Washington’s support for Saudi Arabia’s security, praising Riyadh’s role in securing the UN-brokered truce in Yemen and its pursuit of regional stability. They also discussed US-Saudi cooperation on global economic issues.

 

Tuesday, 17 May–The UK Minister for Asia and the Middle East, Amanda Milling, travelled to Kuwait, for a meeting with Kuwait’s Foreign Minister, Ahmed Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah, Minister of Interior, Ahmed Al-Nawaf Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, and Minister of Oil, Mohammad Abdullatif Al-Faris. The talks covered UK-Kuwait cooperation in security, cyber, education, trade and developments, as well as Gulf unity and developments in Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan.

 

Tuesday, 17 May–Iranian Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alireza Enayati, travelled to Muscat, where he was received by Oman’s Foreign Ministry Undersecretary for Diplomatic Affairs, Khalifa Al-Harthy. The talks focused on Omani-Iranian relations and regional issues ahead of the upcoming visit of Iran’s President, Ebrahim Raisi, to Oman, scheduled for next week.